So she worked just as her parents, college athletes themselves, had raised her to, going to weightlifting, rehabilitation and practice, sometimes all in one day. She gained speed. She lost weight, more than 30 pounds. She broke 11 seconds. "I was still the slowest," Jones said, "but not by as much."

The season started, and Jones, finally cleared to play, began to change. Her teammates noticed.

"When she came in, it was like, 'Girl, you barely jumped over the line," said Townsend, who was asked to specify what line, exactly. She pointed to a black streak crossing the floor of the Terps' auxiliary gym inside Comcast Center.

"Now it's like, 'Girl, you're catching a lot of air,'" Townsend continued, cracking up.

Her parents noticed.

"Even when she comes home now, she's the jokester in the house," Michael said. He added: "Her opinion is coming out sometimes when you don't ask for it."

Her coaches noticed.

Aside from the Terps' Senior Day game, Jones has started every game since February. Maryland is 12-2 in that span. In Atlantic Coast Conference play, she averaged 8.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. With enough attempts to qualify, her .601 field-goal percentage for the season would have ranked third in the league. The two players above her were All-ACC selections.

The only thing expected of her she hasn't done, at least publicly, is dance. As Maryland advanced through the Louisville, Ky., regional, more and more TV broadcasts trained their focus on the Terps' bench.

What they saw was a swirl of shimmies and shakes, gestures and gyrations. It was all choreographed, and Jones, conveniently enough, would miss her cues. She said later that they were honest mistakes, that in the heart of pressure-cooker games, she'd simply forgotten.

She could offer no such excuses in the postgame madness of a March win — not that anyone would have heard her if she spoke up. With the music bumping and the team dancing, Townsend recalled, Jones would bust a move. "We see you, Bri," someone would say, and together they'd laugh.

jshaffer@baltsun.com

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